Tunic with Confronting Mythical Serpents

Date: 800–850

Geography: Peru

Culture: Nasca-Wari

Medium: Camelid hair

Dimensions: H. 21 1/2 × W. 43 1/4 in. (54.6 × 109.9 cm)

Classification: Textiles-Woven

Credit Line: Gift of George D. Pratt, 1929

Accession Number: 29.146.23


Throughout Peruvian prehistory, the tunic, with or without sleeves, was the primary item of clothing for men. Tunics have a vertical slit opening at the top for the neck; they display a great deal of variety in weaving techniques and patterning and a wide range of color. In addition to being practical, they were expressions of ethnic affiliation, social status, and religious beliefs. This example, woven in the slit-tapestry weave, is strikingly bold in design and color. It is made of two identical panels joined at the center and along the sides. Its main, most unusual design consists of two reptilian or fishlike creatures with spotted zigzag bodies facing each other at the center seam of the tunic. They have large heads with bicolored eyes, bared teeth, whiskers or barbells, and ears or fins. The tunic is currently considered Nazca-Wari style. Its shape and weaving technique display Nazca characteristics, while the rendering of the eyes and teeth are typical of the Wari style.